A biomedical engineer could...
|Create a flexible artificial disc to replace a damaged cervical disc, relieving chronic neck pain.||Invent a better aortic valve replacement so that heart patients can return to active lifestyles sooner.|
|Help a child with cerebral palsy walk by creating an internal medication pump for anti-muscle-spasm drugs.||Develop safe and accurate ultrasound technology to help doctors monitor babies in utero.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Shakespeare described humans as a "piece of work," and others have called the body "the most beautiful machine," but like any machine, sometimes body parts need repairs or servicing when the body cannot take care of the problems itself. That’s where biomedical engineers come in. They use engineering to solve problems in medicine, such as creating replacement body parts, drug-delivery systems, medical instruments, and test equipment. Their work helps restore health and function, and improves the quality of life for people who are sick or injured.|
|Key Requirements||Creative, analytical, self-motivated, responsible, with excellent communication skills and an interest in helping people by solving new and complex problems|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra, calculus; if available, physiology, biotechnology, statistics|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!|
Training, Other Qualifications
A biomedical engineering student should first plan to become a good engineer, who then acquires a working understanding of life sciences and terminology, according to the Biomedical Engineering Society website. Good communication skills are also important, because biomedical engineers provide a vital link to professionals with different backgrounds.
Education and Training
In college, prospective biomedical engineers usually select engineering as a field of study, and then choose a discipline concentration within engineering. Some students will major in biomedical engineering, while others might major in chemical, electrical, or mechanical engineering with a specialty in biomedical engineering. Many students continue their education in graduate school, where they obtain valuable biomedical research experience at the master's or doctoral level.
When entering the job market, the graduate should be able to point to well-defined engineering skills for application to the biomedical field, with a project or in-the-field experience in biomedical engineering. Some biomedical engineers also have advanced training in other fields. For example, many biomedical engineers also have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, thereby combining an understanding of advanced technology with direct patient care or clinical research.
Because biomedical engineers often act as a liaison between other types of engineers and physicians, they should have good communication skills. They also should enjoy working independently, as well as in groups. Biomedical engineers often have broad or diverse interests, covering both engineering and the biological sciences, and enjoy the challenge of thinking up creative or clever solutions to complex medical problems.
Nature of the Work
Watch this video to see how biomedical engineer Tejal Desai works to make new inventions, like insulin capsules for diabetics, that will transform modern medicine.
Biomedical engineers develop devices and procedures that solve medical and health-related problems by combining their knowledge of biology and medicine with engineering principles and practices. Many do research with medical scientists to develop and evaluate systems and products, such as artificial organs, prostheses (artificial devices that replace missing body parts), instrumentation, medical information systems, and health-management and care-delivery systems.
Biomedical engineers also might design devices used in various medical procedures; imaging systems, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI); and devices for automating insulin injections or controlling body functions. Most engineers in this specialty need a solid background in another engineering specialty, such as mechanical or electronics engineering, in addition to specialized biomedical training. Some specialties within biomedical engineering are biomaterials, biomechanics, medical imaging, rehabilitation engineering, and orthopedic engineering.
In industry, they might create designs where an in-depth understanding of living systems and of technology is essential. They might be involved in performance testing of new or proposed products. Government positions often involve product testing and safety, as well as establishing safety standards for devices. In the hospital, biomedical engineers might provide advice on the selection and use of medical equipment and supervise its performance testing and maintenance.
They might also build customized devices for special healthcare or research needs. In research institutions, biomedical engineers supervise laboratories and equipment and participate in, or direct, research activities in collaboration with other researchers with such backgrounds as medicine, physiology, and nursing. Some biomedical engineers are technical advisors for marketing departments of companies, and some are in management positions.
Biomedical engineers are employed in education, industry, hospitals, research facilities of educational and medical institutions, and government regulatory agencies. They often serve a coordinating or interfacing function, using their background in both the engineering and medical fields.
They generally work indoors in environmentally controlled conditions, must be very exact and highly accurate in performing their jobs, are often required to wear protective or safety equipment, and require the use of their hands to handle and control objects, tools, or controls.
On the Job
- Evaluate the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of biomedical equipment.
- Install, adjust, maintain, and/or repair biomedical equipment.
- Advise hospital administrators on the planning, acquisition, and use of medical equipment.
- Advise and assist in the application of instrumentation in clinical environments.
- Research new materials to be used for products, such as implanted artificial organs.
- Develop models or computer simulations of human biobehavioral systems to obtain data for measuring or controlling life processes.
- Design and develop medical diagnostic and clinical instrumentation, equipment, and procedures, using the principles of engineering and biobehavioral sciences.
- Conduct research, along with life scientists, chemists, and medical scientists, on the engineering aspects of the biological systems of humans and animals.
- Teach biomedical engineering or disseminate knowledge about field through writing or consulting.
- Design and deliver technology to assist people with disabilities.
- Diagnose and interpret bioelectric data, using signal processing techniques.
- Adapt or design computer hardware or software for medical science uses.
- Analyze new medical procedures to forecast likely outcomes.
- Develop new applications for energy sources, such as using nuclear power for biomedical implants.
Companies That Hire Biomedical Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
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- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Cogito. (2007, July 12). Cogito Interview: Derek O'Keeffe, Biomedical Engineer. Retrieved August 18, 2010, from http://www.cogito.org/Interviews/InterviewsDetail.aspx?ContentID=16748
- National Institutes of Health. (2004, August 17). Meet a Real Biomedical Engineer, Abby Vogel. Retrieved May 5, 2010, from http://science.education.nih.gov/LifeWorks.nsf/Interviews/Abby+Vogel
- Medtronic, Inc. (2010). Kaleigh's Story. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from http://www.medtronic.com/innovation/patient-stories/kaliegh.html.
- Sloan Career Cornerstone Center. (n.d.). Lori Laird (Biomedical Engineer). Retrieved May 5, 2010, from http://www.tryengineering.org/life.php?profile=14
- TPT. (2006). Real Scientists: Tejal Desai. DragonflyTV, Twin Cities Public Television. Retrieved December 16, 2010, from http://pbskids.org/dragonflytv/scientists/scientist67.html
Special thanks to Medtronic for providing images on this page. Image copyrights and trademarks are held by or on behalf of Medtronic, Inc and are used with permission.